I wrote recently about not being clear what our Agile development team was missing by not having a dedicated Scrum Master. In an article I came across (and reblogged recently) Steve Johnson talks about the areas of expertise that product teams need to have and whether it makes sense to have one person responsible for more than one of these areas. Here’s what he talks about (some of this is quoted and some paraphrased by me; check my earlier blog entry for a link to the full article):
To develop and deliver valuable products to the market, a team needs the following:
- Technology expertise: Someone needs to be deeply versed in how the product works and to be able to talk about it in depth with both customers and developers.
- Market expertise: Someone needs to know how business is accomplished in the markets that the product is going to serve.
- Business expertise: Someone needs to be able to research product feasibility and to put together financial analysis to support the product plan.
- Domain expertise: Someone needs to understand the discipline that the product supports and the problems it is going to solve.
- Process expertise: Someone needs to understand the Agile process and help the team follow this process well to gain the full advantages that Agile promotes; this person helps the team get stronger over time as they work together at building the product.
The teams I work with in my current firm tend to assign ‘technology expertise’ to the role of the Product Owner; market, business, and domain expertise to the Product Manager (with some support from our marketing team); and process expertise to the development team as a whole, expecting them to learn from each other and together pursue best practices. That role is often played by a Scrum Master which leaves me still wondering if we are missing out on potential growth for our team by not having a dedicated person playing that role.
What do you think? Do you have Scrum Masters on your teams? I’d welcome insight from other people about these roles in general and the Scrum Master role in particular. I think what we’re doing is working pretty well but I know that in truth it’s not that simple.
2 thoughts on “Roles on an Agile Product Team”
A friend with a smaller startup in SF informed me that they do not have a scrum master, given their size and that everyone wears multiple hats. This is in contrast to my friend’s last company, which is much larger and has technical product managers, who oversee more of the day to day task management, but not scrum masters. To put size into context, the smaller company has 3 product managers and 15 engineers, while the larger company has closer to 40 PMs and 500+ engineers.
I agree that the size of the technology team seems to be a key determinant to whether Scrum Masters are a needed role. Thanks